Incheon: South Korean golf icon K.J. choi was on Tuesday appointed vice-captain of the 12-member International Team that will face the US in the Presidents Cup here this week.
The Presidents Cup starts from Thursday at the Jack Nicklaus Golf Club. The 45-year-old Choi has been a terrific golf ambassador for the Asian Tour since becoming the first graduate to earn his US-based Professional Golfers' Association (PGA) Tour card in 1999 and subsequently winning eight times, including The Players Championship.
With Asia hosting the Presidents Cup for the first time, Choi was given the honour of the elevated title as vice captain, the first in the event's history. Mark McNulty and Tony Johnstone are the other two captain's assistant to Zimbabwean great, three-time Major winner Nick Price.
Choi didn’t flinch when asked if he preferred to be one the 12 golfers or vice captain to Price.
"I’d prefer to play. This is very stressful," laughed the Asian Tour honorary member, South Korea’s first male golfer to make it big on the international stage.
“If you’re a player, you’re just hitting golf shots and playing whenever the captain tells you to play. But for the captain and vice captain, we have to look after 12 players, check on their game styles and life styles and have to match them up well," Choi added in a release.
"There’s a lot of thinking. I can’t sleep at night."
Choi’s rise to success is almost like a fairy-tale. A farmer’s son, he would leave home on Wando island to play golf on the mainland for the entire day -- the most number of holes he’s played in a day is 70 -- after being bitten by the bug at age 15.
He washed cars to earn extra money for his practice and later coined the phrase "to be the best, you’ve got to play with the best" which has served as an inspiration to many other Asian golfers.
Choi’s trailblazing success, which includes three appearances in the Presidents Cup, has led to an unprecedented four Asian golfers -- India’s Anirban Lahiri, Thongchai Jaidee of Thailand, South Korea’s Sangmoon Bae and Japanese Hideki Matsuyama -- to feature in the International Team this week. New Zealand’s Danny Lee is also Korean-born.
“It’s very good and very positive for Asia. It shows the improvement in Asian golf and the Asian Tour. Our players are playing worldwide. It’s very exciting to see,” said Choi.
“This will be good for Korea and Asia. The main thing is that it can change golf in Asia, make it boom and make young players learn the game.”
Choi is making sure the International Team will enjoy a taste of the country’s famous "Kimchi" - a traditional fermented side dish -- during their stay at the Presidents Cup.
“We have reserved a spot at an authentic Korean restaurant and that restaurant is famous for the number of side dishes. We are going to have over seven or eight different side dishes,” he smiled.
“So our plan is to mesmerize our players with the number of plates on their table. They will like the Korean food and they will have a good time."